Kenneth Pollack Explains How To Assess An Iranian Nuclear Deal

My colleague Kenneth Pollack, senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and author of the new book Unthinkable: Iran, The Bomb, And American Strategy, has published an opinion piece in today’s Washington Post explaining how Washington should assess a nuclear deal with Iran, entitled “An Iran nuclear deal doesn’t have to be perfect — just better than the alternatives.”

Pollack examines the relative merits of the diplomatic framework currently under discussion between Tehran and the “P5+1,” the informal grouping of world powers that have sought to persuade Tehran to abandon or constrain its nuclear ambitions. This framework entails an interim accord that would reportedly halt any advancement in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, in exchange for modest sanctions relief, for a six-month period while a more ambitious, permanent agreement would be hammered out. News that such a two-stage deal was imminent provoked intense public criticism in recent days from a variety of sources, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Pollack’s op-ed details the anticipated provisions of an interim and final nuclear accord, and then examines the merits of such a framework in comparison with the available alternatives — (1) “a better deal, even a perfect one, in which Iran would give up every vestige of its nuclear program;” (2) continuing a policy of containing Iran, even if Tehran achieves nuclear weapons capability; and (3) military action to forestall Iran’s ability to cross the nuclear weapons threshold, to change the government, or both.

Pollack concludes that “if Tehran is willing to give up all but a minimal enrichment capability, if it accepts comprehensive and intrusive inspections, and if we can be confident that the sanctions would be reimposed if Iran were ever caught cheating, such an agreement would meet our strategic needs and those of our allies. It may not be perfect, but it would be better than our other options.” To consider his arguments in full, read his Washington Post op-ed here.